Posted by: Amy – Apr 21, 2017
Listen up you music nerds because ‘cause this one’s for you.
A year ago, Chicago-based label Numero Group came up with a unique yet intensive way of getting rare and lesser-known music straight into your ears: a pop-up record store tour, stopping at Strange Matter next week.
Numero Group is pushing 15 years as an archival record label that sets out to discover (or maybe more accurately, re-discover) music from years forgotten and tell their stories by either issuing their music for the first time or re-issuing their music to both show appreciation for their work and give others accessibility to it.
Great music is made all the time, but whether it gains visibility is another story. Numero focuses mostly on music from decades past that has no reputation and goes by unnoticed by even the most serious of music connoisseurs. In many ways, Numero races against time - the group works tirelessly to give music the care and recognition it deserves, while the production of music becomes even faster with digitization.
It’s definitely no easy feat to process music in its physical forms, much less remastering and re-issuing them in addition. The group combs through the music’s history thoroughly, contacts the artists, and starts a conversation about whether they would want to re-release their work or not.
“We get in touch with the artists to tell their stories, we build a relationship,” said Numero co-founder Rob Sevier. “It can be easy or it can be difficult. Sometimes people are excited and happy, sometimes it takes a long time to build a relationship. It really depends. We’ve had literally hundreds of projects or even just a single track on a compilation that we tried to do that didn’t work out for many reasons, usually personal reasons of the artist.”
You can consider co-founders Sevier and Ken Shipley as archivists and or perhaps even music archaeologists, considering how deep they go into discovering, processing, and organizing music that they feel deserves reviving. Numero Group specializes in media from the 1950s to the 90s with a focus on the 60s and 70s and seeks to give that music its proper clout and preserve its place in history. And they’re quite good at it: according to the founders, while the label has a storefront in Chicago, any record store is too small to carry even 10 percent of what Numero has.
“We can literally fill a record store with everything we’ve done in the last 14 years, so this is a way for us to bring that experience to, y’know, every city,” said Sevier. “We’re a label that’s really about discoveries, helping people discover music and you can’t really do that if you don’t keep your records in print and renew interest. All the music’s old, and when it comes out, it’s not necessarily an event that surrounds the release of a new record. It’s really just about putting together the complete story - whatever stories we’re telling we try and release as a complete document.”
The tour is the brainchild of the founders who understand that, despite a sort of comeback for vinyl and other print-forms of music, it’s still a niche area of interest. By going city to city, Numero can expose and give access to different audiences to quality music they wouldn’t have been able to find otherwise.
The project is young: this is only the tour’s second go-around. While the content may be niche, this year’s scale - 18 cities in two and a half weeks - is evident of both dedication on Numero’s part and the interest of music-loving city folk. And Richmond’s proven itself fertile ground for music endeavors.
“We chose the cities based on size, we look for cities that are big enough that have independent scenes pre-established to kind of build upon,” Sevier said. “Richmond is a perfect sized city, it’s a perfect part of the country...it was a pretty natural choice.”
By setting up this kind of extensive tour, Numero brings these musical treasures to you, instead of letting them be forgotten and buried under time. According to Sevier, Numero has tours in store for years to come, and they don’t plan to stop bringing this music back to life anytime soon. And who knows, maybe one day we might find ourselves doing similarly painstaking work uncovering forgotten musical gold from the bowels of SoundCloud.
For now though, you can check out Numero’s impressive collection of vinyls, CDs, tapes, books, t-shirts and more and claim some of it for your own this Monday, April 24th at Strange Matter starting at 2 PM at no entry cost. Don’t miss out! Details here.
Words by Kathy Mendes